The invective keeps coming, relentlessly, like an artillery barrage that pounds your ears and numbs your senses, triggering questions about when or if it will ever stop: The president is “dishonest,” “a liar,” his administration is plagued with “incapacity and rottenness,” and if he’s re-elected, many “shall immediately leave the country” for a foreign land.
Moreover, the more you know him, the less you like or respect him. “There is a strong feeling among those who have seen [the president], in the way of business, that he lacks practical talent for his important place. It is thought that there should be more readiness, and also more capacity, for government,” a senator once said.
About his utterances, little needs to be said, because it is “involved, coarse, colloquial, devoid of ease and grace, and bristling with obscurities and outrages against the simplest rules of syntax.”
In fact, “we pass over the silly remarks of the president. For the credit of the nation, we are willing that the veil of oblivion shall be dropped over them, and they shall be no more repeated or thought of,” a newspaper once reported.
Further, murdering him is justified, with the advantage of vaulting the vice-president into the office his predecessor has so abused.
Anyone familiar with the travails of America’s history recognizes the object of this vituperation: President Abraham Lincoln, who since has been venerated for his courage, intellectual acumen, and, of course, his role in saving the Union and ending slavery.
Few would lump criticisms of our current chief executive with the defamation hurled at the “idiot,” “yahoo,” and “original gorilla” now memorialized in our nation’s capital.
They are different men with different temperaments and vastly different backgrounds and skill sets; even the most ignorant supporter would hardly conflate a speech about appealing to “the better angels of our nature” with President Donald Trump’s shoot-from-the-lip bullets of verbal spittle regularly uttered from the White House.
Still, relentless hatred—pure, unbridled, murderous rage—clings to them, and for similar, if not identical, reasons: Their election was correctly understood as a threat to established elites determined to do anything to protect their privileges. Which means destroying these presidencies, waging war. Whatever it takes.
In Lincoln’s case, John C. Calhoun, a blistering orator and voice for the South, had no qualms about what needed to be done to defeat his enemies in America’s first descent into culture warfare: attack the foundations of the United States and demolish the enemy’s philosophical defense so the South’s “peculiar institution [slavery],” now proclaimed as a “positive good,” can be perpetuated and expanded throughout the hemisphere.
Thus, Calhoun, like Karl Marx, “historicized” the Declaration of Independence by insisting on its relativity to the time and circumstances in which it was pronounced.
A principle proclaimed in the late 18th century, specifically, “The Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God,” was irrelevant for later generations, especially its most noxious deduction about “self-evident truths, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights.”
Calhoun’s contempt for “so great an error” propelled him to squelch “its poisonous fruits” in the current controversy. Many people are too “ignorant, stupid, debased,” and “corrupt” to rule themselves. Moreover, each sector of the country should possess veto power over measures passed by the majority, in order better to protect minority interests’ rights—a doctrine he referred to as the “concurrent majority.”
Finally, the intensity of commitment counts for more than temporary majorities generated by indifferent masses.
Lincoln countered that the truths proclaimed in the Declaration of Independence possessed universal validity for all peoples throughout all time, and neither he nor the founders entertained for a minute that their moral commitments were subject to passing political fashions, historical or otherwise.
Trump isn’t temperamentally inclined to express philosophical principles, but judging from his appointments, he’s fully in Lincoln’s court.
Consider the words of Justice Brett Kavanaugh from his statement before the Senate Judiciary Committee: “My judicial philosophy is straightforward. A judge must be independent and must interpret the law, not make the law. A judge must interpret statutes as written. … I do not decide cases based on personal or policy preferences. I am not a pro-plaintiff or pro-defendant judge. I am not a pro-prosecution or pro-defense judge. I am a pro-law judge.”
A pro-law judge. This is anathema to Trump’s opponents, to those who believe in a “living constitution,” that is, in constitutional interpretations based on political fashions, historical fantasies, and plain old whim.
At least since The New Deal, Democrats have viewed the judiciary and the federal bureaucracy as electorally unaccountable executors of leftist policies, which means that the Constitution and Statutory Law can be regarded as irrelevant; only the agenda matters.
And, as in Calhoun’s time, Democrats view the elected president as illegitimate. He has to be. He’s out of sync with history, with the people who matter (us), and he got into office only because a bunch of “ignorant, stupid, debased” yahoos (Calhoun), “deplorables” (Hillary Clinton), and “dregs of society” (Joe Biden) put him there.
But, unlike in 1861, Democrats can’t secede. So, they scream, they rant, they rage, they threaten, they declare “sanctuary cities” immune from federal jurisdiction, they smear people, destroy reputations, threaten violence, and occasionally carry it out.
Like their forebears in 1861, they will tear the country apart to destroy their opponents and push their agenda. Whatever it takes.
Thus, the viciousness of the Kavanaugh hearings, the attempts to eradicate free speech, and the continuous assaults on America’s foundations. These and other developments deserve separate treatment. But the grounds of our culture war stem from radically different assumptions about “the last best hope of earth,” as important now as they were then.
It all comes down to one question: What sort of country should America be?
Marvin Folkertsma is a retired professor of political science and fellow for American studies with The Center for Vision & Values at Grove City College. The author of several books, his latest release is a novel titled “The Thirteenth Commandment.”
Views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.